Recipient of the B.C. Community Achievement Award

Recipient of the B.C. Community Achievement Award

Locals receive achievement award

Two Lakes District residents are among this year’s recipients of the B.C. Community Achievement Award.

Two Lakes District residents are among this year’s recipients of the B.C. Community Achievement Award.

Premier Christy Clark and Keith Mitchell, chairman of the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, announced March 20 that Cathy Ashurst of Burns Lake and Valerie Ingram of Southbank have been named winners of the award for 2014.

Ashurst was credited with making “a lasting contribution to social, economic, and educational life in the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.” During her tenure as regional manager for the College of New Caledonia in Burns Lake, she expanded post-secondary programs and enrolment throughout the region, and played a key role in developing services and support for individuals suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The college remains a Canadian leader in the field of FASD education.

Ingram, meanwhile, was recognized for her work with the Lakes Animal Friendship Society, a local non-profit organization she helped establish to improve animal welfare through public education and a variety of other programs.

Ashurst could not be reached for comment by press time, but Ingram said the announcement by Clark and Mitchell caught her totally by surprise. While honoured to receive the award, she considers it validation of the Lakes Animal Friendship Society and its work.

“The best part of receiving such an award is knowing that people believe in what we are working to achieve in the Lakes District and beyond,” she stated. “I have been recognized for my part, but really it is recognition that a small community with big animal care issues can successfully tackle the problems and make the shift to being proactive. The Lakes Animal Friendship Society, its volunteers, and community partners have demonstrated that programs like education and spay/neuter assistance can help achieve our goal of happier and healthier animals, families, and community.”

Ingram, who visits local schools to teach students about animals and their care, says the Lakes Animal Friendship Society has had a significant impact on the community. The society, with help from the Canadian Animal Assistance Team, has spayed or neutered more than 500 animals here in three years. Dog-related complaints in the Village of Burns Lake have declined dramatically, she stated, and the number of local canines surrendered to the Turtle Gardens animal shelter has declined by 50 per cent.

“Responsible pet ownership can become the norm,” she stressed. “It takes a commitment to a holistic approach that includes education and spaying and neutering, along with things like legislation, bylaws, and enforcement. We are aware that animal welfare issues are linked with other complex issues in our community, so it will take time and patience.”

Ingram, Ashurst, and the 31 other recipients of this year’s British Columbia Community Achievement Awards will each receive a certificate and medallion designed by B.C. artist Robert Davidson. The presentations will be made April 29 at Government House in Victoria.

Ingram plans to attend the ceremony, but says she’d feel more comfortable visiting a local classroom or participating in one of this area’s community animal care events.

“I am honoured to represent our community and the North,” she stressed, “and hope to raise provincial awareness of our animal welfare issues and successful programs.”